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Ingeborg Nordmann The Human Condition: More Than a Guide to Practical Philosophy THOUGHT THAT SETS OUT ON A PATH THAT LACKS THE RAILING OF tradition exposes itself to the danger that tradition will repeatedly catch up with it. Arendt’s The Human Condition serves as a paradigmatic example, since anthropological and existentialistic interpretations practically dance across its pages. Although Arendt works with philo­ sophical concepts she does not do so in order to revive them, but rather in order to tease them apart and reconfigure them in new ways. This results in multilayered figures of thought that Arendt named crystal­ lizations in her portrait of Walter Benjamin. The image of a crystal as a timeless overlay of multiple historical moments does not, however, point solely to Benjamin. Bergson provides us with an essential cue as well, when he describes the perpetual process of the birth of time as an act of splitting: “Thus each moment of our life contains two aspects, it is both actual and virtual, perception on the one hand, recollection on the other. It splits at the very moment of its arrival” (Bergson, 1928: 123). We can further draw connecting lines from Bergson to the different conceptions of time held by Nietzsche and Heidegger, where time is no longer represented as linear move­ ment, but through interrelations of continuity and rupture. Hannah Arendt’s excursive method of connecting (Verknüpfung) signals that she does not enter into the depth of a text in order to follow its various dendritic pathways as closely as possible, but rather in order social research Vol 74 : No 3 : Fall 2007 777 to choose and detach from it fragments of thought in finely measured intervals, which she then interpolates into a thought-structure that is assembled like a multitextured surface. Those who call Arendt’s montages “associative,” however, miss her principle of construction, which artfully joints visible and hidden layers of meaning, as Barbara Hahn illustrates with memorable examples in her recently published book Hannah Arendt: Leidenschaften, Menschen und Bucher (2005). Not a single note may be dropped from this polyphony lest its complex message be reduced to simplistic mappings. The message lies not only in the repetition and reworking of themes, concepts and images, but also in the manner of their connection, or, as Benjamin would say—in their reciprocal illumination and annotation. To this polyphony, to this point and counterpoint that constitutes The Human Condition and assigns roles to Aristotle, Kant, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, I would like to add further philosophers who are present on the stage ofArendt’s thinking without always being explicitly named, and who provide nuances for Arendt’s text and add changes in meaning that I can only allude to here. I am referring to Kierkegaard, Bergson, Husserl, and Benjamin. Which roles do they really play, these philosophical actors Arendt calls onto the stage of her thinking, when the play staged by her concerns the end of philosophy, philosophy that—according to her crit­ icism—was never willing to locate the very space where the political originates? Jacques Taminiaux demonstrated in subtle ways that Arendt reads Aristotle differently than Heidegger does, and Dana Villa pointed our attention to shifting alliances in which Arendt sometimes thinks with Aristotle and Kant against Heidegger, sometimes with Heidegger against Aristotle and Kant. Julia Kristeva reminded us of the fact that both Aristotle’s poetry and Greek tragedy provided building blocks for Arendt’s project of acting by narrating since we live in the presence of tragedy as long as we judge and act. All three ofthese authors agree that Heidegger’s readings of Aristotle’s distinctions between poiesis and praxis paved the way for Arendt’s theory of political action, something particularly true for Heidegger’s claim that there is nothing that can limit the aletheiian function of phronesis. This thought builds a bridge 778 social research to a comment made by Aristotle in Book II of the Politics, where he criti­ cizes Plato’s Republic and insists that the polis is by its nature plural and that it would perish if understood in analogy to the family or a single individual. That implies, as Jacques Taminiaux explicates, that aletheia...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 777-796
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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